Ahulking, $140,000 RAM truck points to the future of the Walkinshaw Automotive Group in Australia.
The parent company of Holden Special Vehicles, which is now led by second-generation motor mogul Ryan Walkinshaw, is looking to diversify its engineering and sales base here in Australia to move away from the historical reliance on Holden.
It has done the RAM deal in partnership with Neville Crichton’s Ateco group, using its engineering and production expertise to provide the full-sized right-hand drive trucks demanded by a small but wealthy number of local buyers.
The RAM deal was originally conceived by former Fiat Chrysler Australia boss Clyde Campbell, although it had to be re-ignited by Crichton following his departure from the company. And it was Crichton who also tapped Walkinshaw for everything from the right-hand drive conversion work to production at the same Clayton base used by HSV.
There is now potential for further RAM work, as Fiat Chrysler has recently rejected a re-badged version of the Mitsubishi Triton for Australia in favour of another program based out of the United States.
“I’ve made no secret of the fact that we want to grow our operation here in Australia and Asia into a new TWR, the way it was at its peak. There are a lot of opportunities. We are one of the few companies who can provide original equipment makers with everything for niche-product opportunities,” Walkinshaw revealed to AMC.
“The first RAM trucks are now out. The dealer feedback has been fantastic. We’ve sold everything we expected and we’re expecting to sell even more.
“The quality of this kind of conversion has never been done anywhere in the world. We had ambitions to do an OEM-standard conversion, which is what people expect at this price.”
The RAM deal was done in a partnership between Walkinshaw and Crichton that created a new company called American Special Vehicles.
It now intends to do a full-scale ANCAP crash test with the truck to prove its safety and the engineering work on the local conversion. But Walkinshaw also hinted that he is looking for extra opportunities for exports out of Australia.
“Our ambitions are too look at other right-hand drive countries. Our priority wil be to do the best job we can.”
He said production can run at up to four trucks a day, leaving more room for future expansion.
It’s typical of the Walkinshaw operation in Australia, which is doing a growing number of design and engineering jobs.
“Our design studio is currently fully booked. And it’s not all Holden work. We also have more and more engineering jobs,” Walkinshaw said. “We have been doing design engineering and small-run manufacturing for numerous manufacturers for quite some time. We made sure there is no crossover and confidentiality is the utmost importance. This is not exactly new for Walkinshaw Group, as at the peak for TWR we were doing work of some sort for nine different manufacturers.”